Oct 2, 2017
Defining Patient Abandonment Rate
You likely already know what patient abandonment is: when a prescription is written by a doctor but never picked up at the pharmacy. It’s an unfortunate contributor to medication adherence issues that negatively impacts patients, physicians, and your brand.
But how do you know if your patient abandonment rate is accurate, and more importantly, how do you mitigate abandonment? In order to improve patient abandonment rates, it’s important to correctly interpret and understand the data surrounding this problem. That starts with getting down to the details.
Too often, companies only look at reversal and rejection data to determine their patient abandonment rate. In fact, the problem is a lot more nuanced than a single number, and without looking at the whole picture, your patient abandonment rate numbers are going to be underestimated. To get a better understanding of this complex issue and how to solve it, you have to get granular and take a closer look at the patient journey.
There are three main stops along the patient journey where abandonment can take place. Breaking down where abandonment happens is the best way to understand and improve your patient abandonment rate. Once you understand the things that are causing people to neglect their prescriptions, you have a much better chance of preventing it.
Subset 1: Pre-Pharmacy Patient Abandonment
Sometimes it’s as simple as forgetting. Patients visit the doctor, receive a prescription, and leave it in their purse, pocket, or throw it in the trash. Electronic prescribing can help counteract this problem by ensuring that 100% of prescriptions make it to the pharmacy. Of course, the prescription making it to the pharmacy means nothing if the patient never does. Reminders can be a powerful tool to increase the likelihood that the patient will come pick up their prescription even if they’re busy, forgetful, or hesitant.
Physical access and cost issues are not as easily solved. When a patient can’t get to the pharmacy or doesn’t have the right support system, the likelihood of their prescription being picked up drops significantly. Even if the patient has the ability and intent to pick up the prescription, they may have received samples from a doctor or are simply unable to afford the cost of the medication. Sometimes, assumed price trumps the reality at the counter, and the patient walks away before they ever make it to the pharmacy and have the true cost.
Subset 2: Patient Abandonment at the Pharmacy
When a patient walks away from a prescription at the pharmacy, it’s referred to as a reversal. Historically, the reversal rate is the standard data that most companies use to determine their patient abandonment rate. In reality, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
Cost is often the biggest factor leading to reversals at the pharmacy. When a prescription is too expensive, the patient has to choose between paying for their medication or a variety of other basic necessities. Too often they don’t choose the medication. Factors outside of cost may also play a part, including confusion about health care benefits, miscommunication between doctor and patient, insurance restrictions, and a variety of other personal factors.
Subset 3: Abandonment Throughout the Patient Journey
Abandonment doesn’t just happen with a patient’s first prescription fill, it happens anytime a patient doesn’t pick up all of the prescribed refills. This kind of patient abandonment impacts adherence rates and ultimately outcomes.
The reasons for abandonment can vary across the journey. As with pre-pharmacy abandonment, patients may forget to pick up their prescription refills. Side effects may cause the patient to stop taking their prescription, or the benefit from the medication may not be immediately discernible. Preventative medications for chronic, asymptomatic conditions such as high blood pressure or cholesterol are often abandoned for that reason. And of course, cost remains a significant contributor. It’s possible that the patient’s insurance plan or deductible has changed, or their copay is just too high to fit their budget that month. As with other subsets of the patient journey, additional personal factors may contribute as well.
Using a Full Range of Data to Understand Patient Abandonment
So how do you figure out what’s going on with your brand? There’s a world of data sitting at your fingertips, and it can unlock valuable insights about why and when patient abandonment is occurring.
To see when and how patients are dropping off, start by looking at copay card program data, e-prescribing data, and longitudinal data from across the patient journey. Of course, all of these instances amount to a significant amount of data, which can be intimidating unless you have a centralized platform where the data can be effectively mapped over time.
By looking at the whole picture, your brand has the opportunity to address patient abandonment at every point of the journey, resulting in stronger sales and better outcomes. It’s just a matter of using the information you already have in a more effective way. Truveris’ team of patient access strategy experts help you uncover that data and derive deep insights to help you understand the fine details of your brand’s patient abandonment rate. If you’re not seeing the whole picture, Truveris can help you interpret all of your data and identify where to focus your efforts and dollars. Once you understand the factors that are causing people to abandon their prescriptions, you can create an efficient, effective patient access strategy to mitigate the problem.
Jonathan Lanznar is a member of Truveris’ Life Sciences team. In his role as Director, Jon leads the company’s efforts in delivering patient access programs for pharmaceutical companies. Jon has a BA from Emory University and an MBA in Healthcare Management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.